USA Basketball: Friday night lessons
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The under-18 USA Basketball trials hit its first full day in Colorado as a few have begun to separate themselves from the pack . Friday night, it was a group of six that taught us a few more lessons as to why they are should be so heavily valued on the national platform.
DJ Carton is not afraid of the moment
The 6-foot-3 guard out of Iowa, despite remaining off of the radar this spring, showed that he is more than capable of not only going head to toe with the nation’s best, but also belonging in the conversion as to who the elite are. He has made a major name for himself this week thanks to his ability to score during one-on-one drills, keep his respective team engaged as a vocal leader, and remain a quality, reliable presence for his coaches whenever the collective unit is on the floor. There is good reason why Iowa, Michigan, Indiana, Marquette, Xavier and Ohio State want to give the keys to its program to Carton and in Colorado, the word spread further that he is not afraid of the biggest of platforms available.
Tyrese Maxey's personality shines
The USA Basketball training camp setting is like clockwork. Participants come in and attempt to get their bearings straight, walk on egg shells for the first few sessions, and finally the tensions begin to dissipate and the rare talents begin to shine. This couldn’t be truer for Tyrese Maxey as he was arguably the top standout during Friday night’s session. A bottle of energy and known for his outgoing, charismatic personality, the under-18 bunch needs some character and Maxey might be the guy. Outside of his entertaining playing style, it is his broad ranging abilities that makes him what he is. He has some sneaky Malik Monk tendencies where he can go off on his own ten-point runs at the blink of an eye, a spurt he enjoyed on Friday evening. Headed to Kentucky next year, Maxey has begun to loosen up in the thin air of Colorado Springs and as he continues to do so, under-18 squad may have found its alpha.
Rocket Watts can go and get a bucket
In early May at the third stop of the Nike EYBL, Rocket Watts set the 2018 spring single game scoring record with 41. If he was given the chance to play for a longer period on Friday night, he may have broken it. A tough and wired to compete guard that is more of a scorer than a playmaker, whenever Watts is feeling it, all that the opponent can do is pray that a solid contest and disciplined defense can do the trick. Those hopes failed miserably on Friday and just like Maxey, Watts has begun to unleash himself and not worry about stepping onto anyone’s toes, something that his under-18 coaching staff may continue to be looking for as cuts near. He has begun to round out his skillset but one thing is for sure, there are not many better microwave scorers than Rocket Watts.
Timberlake has hidden abilities
Playing against some that have already played a full year in college, Earl Timberlake had to find a way to make up for lost time and experience in Colorado. He did just that on Friday as he may have been the best passer in attendance, especially off of the high ball screen, reflecting further the tremendous talent and versatility that he possesses. By the looks test alone, one would believe that he is a hard-nosed athlete thanks to the physique that he possesses. Think again. Timberlake thinks pass instead of shot, unlike most others, and his focus on defense in guarding multiple positions while others are hellbent on what they might have done wrong on the offensive end plays to his strengths, too. Just a member of the 2020 class, making the final under-18 team remains in question but what doesn’t is the hidden, underappreciated abilities that makes him one of the more unique, top-30 recruits in his class.
Lomax could be the catalyst of change for Memphis basketball
Penny Hardaway has already shown that he can land top shelf high school talent but whenever it comes to restoring the culture in Memphis, Alex Lomax might be the reason for why the Tigers reach heightened success. The definition of tough and gritty, Lomax is a blue-collared guard to the core. He defended his man like his life was in jeopardy but also showed the ability to knock down the perimeter jumper, an asset that cannot be swept under the rug if Memphis plans on playing Lomax alongside fellow Rivals150 guard Tyler Harris, two under 6-foot guards, beginning next season. Lomax doesn’t have the highest of basketball ceiling but he is a sure-fire competitor that is going to be the head of the snake for Memphis’ ascent back into the national spotlight.
Bacot changes momentum
One of the top low-post bigs nationally, Armando Bacot continues to shine in Colorado Springs. A super skilled and composed big man that can score with his back to the basket, Bacot displayed his entire arsenal Friday night, converting over either shoulder in the post and reaching the foul line a handful of times. In a guard’s game, Bacot is an egoless big man that goes about his time on the floor in a workman-like manner. He rebounded the ball at a high rate, especially on the defensive end, and showed Kevin Love abilities with his quick outlet passing skills. He hasn’t had the most productive of springs thus far but he has put a stop to it in Colorado and has a lot of momentum headed his way in creating a strong argument to make the final cuts.